A face to remember: the small hive beetle

Small hive beetles on a honey comb. CSIRO image

If you have never seen a small hive beetle, I encourage you to take a look at these portraits by biologist and photographer Alex Wild in Illinois. Small hive beetles (Aethina tumida) can do vast amounts of damage to honeycombs and they are rapidly spreading throughout North America. I haven’t written about the small hive beetle yet, but I don’t want you to miss these great pictures. And remember the face. Unfortunately, I’m sure you’ll see it again.

Honey Bee Suite


  • I have SHB in a couple of hives. Installed traps with vegetable oil and have caught a few. One trap was glued in with wax and I spilled some on the hive when I pried it out. I found several “slick” , “black” looking dead bees during inspection and feel terrible that the oil from the trap may have killed them. Needless to say I am not using more of these traps. Any thoughts on the oil in the hive or is there something else going on?

  • We are new to beekeeping. Just got our bees last night. Went out to our two hives this morning opened the lid on one of the hives and saw a small black beetle. What should we do? I just started reading on this problem. So disappointed!

    • Gail,

      Not every beetle in a hive is a hive beetle. So, the first thing you need to do is capture the beetle and identify it. If it’s not a hive beetle, no further worry is necessary. If it is a hive beetle, I recommend buying a commercial beetle trap and installing it as soon as possible.

      • We had a beetle trap on hand and put it in the hive right away. I checked today and there were some beetles in it. They are small, black and about 1/4 inch long I didn’t see any more live ones. I’ll keep a look out for any more.

  • Hi folks, SHB came to Australia in 2002, since then “all out war has been declared on this insect” and numerous traps have been devised to either kill the critter or eject it from the hive, some are more successful than others, poison in cd cases, bottom boards with mesh and oil or not as the case might be, cloth to entangle it, diatomaceous earth in traps between frames and so it goes, I have tried pretty much all of them and a couple do indeed work reasonably well as long as you service them on a regular basis (just one more job). I run plastic hives or rather high density polystyrene units from Finland and consequently most of the stuff developed for wooden Langstroth’s doesn’t fit, this is not usually a problem as the Fins have been making these hives for 30 yrs to combat the cold and most accessories needed for their climate are available however perhaps due to the cold, SHB specific is not covered in their standard equipment, so I spent a “S” load on bottom traps/boards, and now we come to the interesting part, I had a weak colony and I run Italian bees, robbing ensued and I lost the hive (my bad, no excuses). I used this site and the links so generously provided to come up with robbing screens, which I made and installed on a couple of nucs and a couple of young colonies, now all of these hives are POLY and have a top feeder which is where the bees chase the SHB up to and where I would delete them any time I opened the lid. The unusual thing I want to report is that 2 weeks after the screens were attached no evidence of SHB was in the feeder or the hive, is it really that simple? The beetle tracks the odor like a robbing bee and fails to negotiate the robbing screen? I’m a big fan of prevention being better than cure, any and all comments welcome, also why the heck are you guys battling with wooden hives in the cold? You wouldn’t build a house without insulation. Thanks for the site Rusty.

    • Grahame,

      So you’re saying the robbing screens prevented adult beetles from entering the hives? That would sure be cool. Anyone else see this?

  • Grahame

    I decided, as a new beekeeper, to start with Apimaye hives which are a type of polystyrene hive. It gets quite cold here in central Pennsylvania. And hot/humid in summer. I am hoping that this hive will give my bees a comfortable home. Do you find that this type of hive is also helpful for the hot summers?

  • Hi Diana, I have “Paradise” hives so can’t comment on Apimaye (they’re not available here in Oz) and the Finns invented the Paradise hives primarily to combat the cold, but yes they work very well in our summer heat which reaches 40c (104f) at times.

    Further to my previous post on SHB and robbing screens, sad to report that the screens had no long term effect, after a month or two the beetles were back. I did find this just last week and am awaiting delivery of the paint to trial it.

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